Sunday, February 13, 2011

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER II: ON THE LOWER DECK (cont.....3)

 El Filibusterismo CHAPTER II: ON THE LOWER DECK (cont.....3)

"And tell him, also," added Isagani, paying no attention to his
friend's nudges, "that water is very mild and can be drunk, but that
it drowns out the wine and beer and puts out the fire, that heated
it becomes steam, and that ruffled it is the ocean, that it once
destroyed mankind and made the earth tremble to its foundations!" [8]
Simoun raised his head. Although his looks could not be read
through the blue goggles, on the rest of his face surprise might
be seen. "Rather a good answer," he said. "But I fear that he might
get facetious and ask me when the water will be converted into steam
and when into an ocean. Padre Camorra is rather incredulous and is
a great wag."
"When the fire heats it, when the rivulets that are now scattered
through the steep valleys, forced by fatality, rush together in the
abyss that men are digging," replied Isagani.
"No, Señor Simoun," interposed Basilio, changing to a jesting tone,
"rather keep in mind the verses of my friend Isagani himself:
'Fire you, you say, and water we,
Then as you wish, so let it be;
But let us live in peace and right,
Nor shall the fire e'er see us fight;
So joined by wisdom's glowing flame,
That without anger, hate, or blame,
We form the steam, the fifth element,
Progress and light, life and movement.'"
"Utopia, Utopia!" responded Simoun dryly. "The engine is about to
meet--in the meantime, I'll drink my beer." So, without any word of
excuse, he left the two friends.
"But what's the matter with you today that you're so
quarrelsome?" asked Basilio.
"Nothing. I don't know why, but that man fills me with horror,
fear almost."
"I was nudging you with my elbow. Don't you know that he's called
the Brown Cardinal?"
"The Brown Cardinal?"
"Or Black Eminence, as you wish."
"I don't understand."
"Richelieu had a Capuchin adviser who was called the Gray Eminence;
well, that's what this man is to the General."
"Really?"
"That's what I've heard from _a certain person,_--who always speaks
ill of him behind his back and flatters him to his face."
"Does he also visit Capitan Tiago?"
"From the first day after his arrival, and I'm sure that _a certain
person_ looks upon him as a rival--in the inheritance. I believe
that he's going to see the General about the question of instruction
in Castilian."
At that moment Isagani was called away by a servant to his uncle.
On one of the benches at the stern, huddled in among the other
passengers, sat a native priest gazing at the landscapes that were
successively unfolded to his view. His neighbors made room for him, the
men on passing taking off their hats, and the gamblers not daring to
set their table near where he was. He said little, but neither smoked
nor assumed arrogant airs, nor did he disdain to mingle with the other
men, returning the salutes with courtesy and affability as if he felt
much honored and very grateful. Although advanced in years, with hair
almost completely gray, he appeared to be in vigorous health, and even
when seated held his body straight and his head erect, but without
pride or arrogance. He differed from the ordinary native priests,
few enough indeed, who at that period served merely as coadjutors or
administered some curacies temporarily, in a certain self-possession
and gravity, like one who was conscious of his personal dignity
and the sacredness of his office. A superficial examination of his
appearance, if not his white hair, revealed at once that he belonged
to another epoch, another generation, when the better young men were
not afraid to risk their dignity by becoming priests, when the native
clergy looked any friar at all in the face, and when their class,
not yet degraded and vilified, called for free men and not slaves,
superior intelligences and not servile wills. In his sad and serious
features was to be read the serenity of a soul fortified by study and
meditation, perhaps tried out by deep moral suffering. This priest
was Padre Florentino, Isagani's uncle, and his story is easily told.
Scion of a wealthy and influential family of Manila, of agreeable
appearance and cheerful disposition, suited to shine in the world, he
had never felt any call to the sacerdotal profession, but by reason
of some promises or vows, his mother, after not a few struggles and
violent disputes, compelled him to enter the seminary. She was a great
friend of the Archbishop, had a will of iron, and was as inexorable
as is every devout woman who believes that she is interpreting the
will of God. Vainly the young Florentine offered resistance, vainly he
begged, vainly he pleaded his love affairs, even provoking scandals:
priest he had to become at twenty-five years of age, and priest he
became. The Archbishop ordained him, his first mass was celebrated
with great pomp, three days were given over to feasting, and his
mother died happy and content, leaving him all her fortune.
But in that struggle Florentine received a wound from which he
never recovered. Weeks before his first mass the woman he loved,
in desperation, married a nobody--a blow the rudest he had ever
experienced. He lost his moral energy, life became dull and
insupportable. If not his virtue and the respect for his office,
that unfortunate love affair saved him from the depths into which the
regular orders and secular clergymen both fall in the Philippines. He
devoted himself to his parishioners as a duty, and by inclination to
the natural sciences.
When the events of seventy-two occurred, [9] he feared that the
large income his curacy yielded him would attract attention to
him, so, desiring peace above everything, he sought and secured his
release, living thereafter as a private individual on his patrimonial
estate situated on the Pacific coast. He there adopted his nephew,
Isagani, who was reported by the malicious to be his own son by his
old sweetheart when she became a widow, and by the more serious and
better informed, the natural child of a cousin, a lady in Manila.
The captain of the steamer caught sight of the old priest and insisted
that he go to the upper deck, saying, "If you don't do so, the friars
will think that you don't want to associate with them."
Padre Florentino had no recourse but to accept, so he summoned his
nephew in order to let him know where he was going, and to charge him
not to come near the upper deck while he was there. "If the captain
notices you, he'll invite you also, and we should then be abusing
his kindness."
"My uncle's way!" thought Isagani. "All so that I won't have any
reason for talking with Doña Victorina."

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